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Marley Goes to Paris, Part One

The First Four Lives
The sun came out today in Paris after a month of mostly gloomy skies. Marley found the brightest patch of sunlight in our apartment, stretched out his paws and closed his eyes. Cats, the sun, Apollo, Leo, enjoyment. Ancient Greek myth, like the myths of most cultures, makes eternal associations.

I think of my mother’s words before we left the United States, “You’re not taking your cat, are you?” When it comes to expressing her opinion, my mother has never pussyfooted around. She doesn’t like cats, finds them weird. Whereas I could start a religion with a cat god. A dog god? No. I can’t picture worshipping a dog. But a cat? Absolutely. The ancient Egyptians understood the mystery and enchantment of these small creatures.

So, about Marley. Marley is a Turkish Angora, white with fawn-colored ears, Van Gogh eyebrows and eyes that were once turquoise and now are navy blue.

Marley is now in his sixth life, having entered our lives in his fourth.  This is what we know of his former lives:

Life #1: He had a home in Malibu, until the Great Malibu Fire of 1993.

Life #2: A stranger found Marley as a kitten with minor burns, and took him to a pound. That might have been his final life if our neighbors hadn’t rescued him.

Life #3: Crystal and Gabrielle brought Marley to their Venice (California) home. But then--as Richard Nixon once said--“Mistakes were made.” The two neighbor women next adopted a small black cat named Louie. Louie was as hysterical in nature as Marley was calm. Both cats were allowed to roam our Fifth Avenue neighborhood. Marley strolled around, confident, king of the block. Louie would shoot out the front door and straight up a tree, like a frenzied squirrel on speed. Everything spooked him.

Maybe it was male competition, but Marley decided that living with Louie was just not going to work for him.

He set about canvassing our block, stopping at every house to check out the inhabitants, the ambience and the food.

His requirements were modest: humans who were home most of the day, with no children, no other pets, good food offerings, a sunny, quiet, clean home, and a willingness to give him plenty of attention, if not downright worship.

The night we began planning our wedding in Crete, we had ordered out for pasta. The front doorbell rang. The deliveryman handed Richard our order, and as he was paying, a white streak of lightning shot up the stairs.

We put table settings on the white duvet on our bed, and placed the dishes of pasta on top.

Meanwhile, Marley sniffed every corner of our apartment. As we began to eat, Marley padded into the bedroom and leapt up on the bed, front paws smack in the middle of Richard’s Bolognese sauce. He tracked perfect red paw prints across the white duvet.

Richard shouted and shooed him away. I ran to the kitchen to fetch some soda water. Pouring it immediately onto the marks meant they’d come out in the wash. Richard held Marley’s paws under running water. I spread two towels over the duvet.

We ate dinner, then settled back against pillows to brainstorm. Marley leapt up on the bed again, and onto my shoulders and head, then across to Richard’s head and shoulders, and draped himself over our humming brains, and purred.

He stayed in this position for most of our planning session. It felt like a blessing on the wedding itself, so we named him our Wedding Cake Cat. He was white and orangey-pink, like a wedding cake.

Several weeks later, Crystal stopped us in front of our fourplex. “Would you two consider adopting Marley?” she said. “He won’t come into our house any more since Louie moved in. He’s chosen you.”

We were thrilled. Marley had done his homework, found the only house on the block occupied by two writers who work at home, and who so love cats that neither of us had been able to imagine adopting another when, before we had met each other, our former cats had died. But to be chosen by a cat? That you cannot turn down.

Life #4: So began Marley’s life with us in Venice, in 1997.  Tune in Saturday for lives #5 and #6.

iPad sketch by Richard

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Reader Comments (16)

Loved your story about Marley! Cats are so mysterious and amazing! I'm a little afraid of them, frankly, though I now have one of my own, which Jim and I inherited from our daughter, Emily-- actually we inherited two, a brother and a sister - but the sister decided she liked my neighbor better after we went away on a long trip... so she moved next door. Rather sad, but it worked out OK since my neighbor had just lost her own cat and was happy to have her.

I have a question for you though about traveling with cats: How do you accommodate their need to 'relieve' themselves on a long car trip? I recently had this experience when returning from the island, where my cat had to be cooped up in the car for almost eight hours. I tried letting him out at a state park, but that turned out to be a disaster when he ran deep into the brambly bushes and wouldn't come when I called... cats don't usually do that, do they?!? I'm so used to dogs. Anyway, I decided to buy a covered litter box that he could walk into, but he didn't seem to like that, even when I placed him in it. I guess the next idea I'll try is to buy a little harness with a leash attached, though I've been told that cats often lie down and don't move when you put that kind of thing on them!

All that said, I very much admire the fact that you have taken Marley with you, and I look forward to hearing about his next lives!

By the way, my background for your blog is just plain white... no blue at all. ???
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 23:15 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Cottrell Kibble
Ah, Marley. He has the same indomitable yet gentle spirit as did my Himalayan, Hotspur. The same enormous, butting head (a symbol of his esteem for whatever human he has chosen as his object of affection), the same baritone purr and disconcertingly high-tenor meow. The same ability -- unlike most mortal cats -- to make himself a home wherever his people are.

Miss you, miss him. Can't wait for the next chapters!
Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 1:02 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
I'm purring after reading this blog. Thank-you.
Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 1:57 | Unregistered CommenterTristine
Richard, you are an IPad artist. Hooray!
Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 1:59 | Unregistered CommenterTristine
K & R,

Have enjoyed reading about your journey to Paris, Brother John should have helped you with the CA move leg. That boy.

I am going to forward your link to Jamie, youngest daughter, as she has started to write again and will love this. You 2 are a grand example of follow your heart. Or, the wisdom of Bruce where each move is "just another adventure in the great adventure of life"

Love you both, K
Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 15:12 | Unregistered CommenterSister Cousin Kris
aaah, Marley in Paris.... is he meowing with a French accent?
I love your drawing, Richard.
So many talents, you two.
Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 17:08 | Unregistered CommenterJane Kitchell
Carol: Did your cat come back from the brambly bushes? No, you can't give cats orders, which is one of the things I like about them. Should we be able to give humans orders. I don't think so. So a cat believes that his own will is more important than a human's need to order him around. Isn't that the very definition of self-esteem? And self-esteem is always a fine thing to behold, if it isn't blown up into conceit.

I hate putting Marley into a cage, but for his own and others' protection, it's necessary to do when traveling. The cage in which he flew to Paris had a pad at the bottom as a sort of litter box. But strangely enough, he didn't use it. I think because of the finicky cleanliness of catitude.

If you increase your screen size sideways, you may see blue borders.

Kaaren and Richard


Anna: Hotspur! What a great name for a cat! Butting head: that's it. And oh, do we love that deep purr. Right now I can hear Marley licking himself; louder than the washing machine. And he's meowing now loudly. But it's not a high-pitched meow. I think his voice has deepened since we've come to Paris. He's tuning up his voice to attract a French girl friend. Miss you and love you.

Kaaren and Richard


Tristine: I KNEW you were a cat. Thank you for purring along with Marley. He sends his Mao Mao back to you. (That's Chinese for meow AND cat.)

Richard thanks you for appreciating his iPad drawing.

Love from the two of us,
Kaaren and Richard


Sister Cousin Kris:

Hooray! I'd love you to send the link to Jamie. Tell her to send me a poem or story or essay if she'd like to. I think we are lost on this earth if we don't follow our hearts. And Bruce is a true Viking, just like his sister, my mother, always looking for the next wild adventure. And why not?

Love to you and Jim,
Kaaren and Richard
Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 21:48 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell
Hi Jane,

Marley's voice is getting deeper. He's working on his French accent, hoping to impress some French feline. We're taking him over to Varda's to play. Maybe one of her chats femmes and Marley will hit it off. He's been grooming overtime as well.

I love this drawing too. Who knew you could draw on an iPad?

Love you, Jane,
Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 21:53 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell
Mr. Floofypants! Oh, I miss that sweet boy, but what a treat to see his face (in extreme close-up!). He is so very lucky to be with such loving people in beautiful Paris. He'll be miaowing in French like un chat natif in no time. Please give him a snuggle and rub behind the ears for me.

much love,
Friday, February 25, 2011 at 7:11 | Unregistered Commenterdawna
Who Will Feed My Cat? by Hafiz, Tr. Daniel Ladinsky

Will need
Someone to feed my cat
When I leave this world,
Though my cat is not ordinary.
She only has three paws:
Fire, air,
Friday, February 25, 2011 at 19:44 | Unregistered CommenterJoan Dempsey
Oh Dawna,

Mr. Floofypants misses you. He wants to know when you are coming to Paris. He is getting tres sleek, as we use the furminator on him every day so he's not shedding as much. He misses the treats and massages and love you used to bring him. And he sends you a purrrrr.

Marley and Kaaren and Richard
Friday, February 25, 2011 at 22:26 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell

This is uncanny. Fire, air, water. Wait till you read Marley Goes to Paris, Part 2. You must be psychic.

That's a great Hafiz poem.

Kaaren and Richard
Saturday, February 26, 2011 at 0:30 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell
Kaaren & Richard,

This blog is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!! I love the writing, the art, the photographs. Richard, you even do i-Pad sketches??? What? Wow!!

Kaaren, I love what you told Hawk about efficiency vs. living. I'm tired of "working"!!

This journal is so lovely, so smart, so poetic.

May Marley have countless more lives!

Love you guys!

Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 17:31 | Unregistered CommenterCassandra Lane
Dear Cassandra,

Your words gave us such joy!

More and more Richard and I are making our work our play. It has taken so many years to get to this place. You and our writers group have helped so much in this process. Don't you find that you're moving from the early grind of learning chops to using writing (and photographing) to cavort and dance and play?

Marley is curled up beside me on the couch, cat-ching up on sleep. He sends a wish to you for work and play to be one. (He's playing in his sleep and his sleep IS his work today.)

Love, love,
Kaaren and Richard
Monday, February 28, 2011 at 16:04 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell
I love your cat. I get cats. I understand them. I grok cats. They are magical, opinionated, silly, affectionate and aloof all at the same time. My dog?
We lost Maxine 1 year ago. Sweet, sweet kitty. We cried our eyes out. We lost Dindi 6 years ago. That was just impossible. We were inconsolable. What a fantastic cat.
Glad Marley is having such a fabulous life and I look forward to reading about more of his escapades with his multiple lives!
Love you blog. Love you. Miss you. Meow. xoxoxo Julie
Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 3:12 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Marley salutes (the spirits of) Maxine and Dindi! It's astonishing the way cats (dogs too) become little members of our families. They wait for us to wake up, to play with them, to come home when we are out, to give them love and attention. And then you end up not being able to imagine life without them.

We'll have to have some sequels of Marley's adventures for you. We're so happy you're enjoying the journal. And it was such fun to join you for Viv's birthday. Distance does not exist.

Much love and meow meow from you-know-who,
Kaaren and Richard
Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 23:04 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell

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